recording of The Cloak by Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol.
Read in English by Bob Neufeld
"The Cloak" is a short story by Ukrainian-born Russian author Nikolai Gogol, published in 1842. The story and its author have had great influence on Russian literature, as expressed in a quote attributed to Fyodor Dostoevsky: "We all come out from Gogol's 'Overcoat'." The story has been adapted into a variety of stage and film interpretations.
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January 1, 2014
Relevant for as Long as There Are Bureaucrats
Until now I had only encountered the reader Bob Neufeld in the group presentations of various plays. He has the perfect voice for many-an-older male character. The Cloak is told by an unidentified narrator, and somehow the reader suits the telling perfectly.
Listeners may find the opening a bit slow when the narrator relates how the easily mocked, easily overlooked low-level bureaucrat Akaky Akakievich receives his name. Knowing no Russian, the joke would have sailed right over my head, had I not ventured over to Wikipedia to learn a little more about The Cloak, or The Overcoat, as the story is also known.
I wish to add the following quote from Wikipedia as it may help other listeners understand why that part of the story is essential:
...The name Akaky Akakievich is similar to "John Johnson" and has similar comedic value; it also communicates Akaky's role as an everyman. Moreover, the name sounds strikingly similar to the word "obkakat'" in Russian, which means "to smear with excrement," or kaka, which means "poop", thereby rendering his name "Poop Poopson". In addition to the scatological pun, the literal meaning of the name, derived from the Greek, is "harmless" or "lacking evil", showing the humiliation it must have taken to drive his ghost to violence. ...
In modern bureaucracies there are doubtless rules that keep the important persons from speaking to their subordinates so harshly. No doubt quite as much can be said in tone or gesture. Therefore, this story remains relevant and shall remain for as long as there are bureaucracies and bureaucrats.